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A Journal of Free Voices A Window to the South Oct. 19, 1973 Legisla Hurtin 140 coo s ,.% Of o Need 131-1L-NR Asked Akt 8e q -137 vraction , 4 MR t.t e Sa eY -iveeede\(t; chooj tguit r etarded A 4k jtco Ice Cove ,014 e\\osco” cO,Ye <`, Iled horribl e ei.44t0 et S,41 .e0. 4Z`Zf' ,6 \(frtY INtental school\( 9 Austin A Tuesday morning in August. The Austin State School at 35th and Exposition. A 29-year-old attendant is beginning the morning work shift. The attendant we'll call her Martha is one of three employees on duty in Camelia Dormitory, which houses 64 non-ambulatory retarded girls. Martha must keep the ward clean and tend to the girls' limitless needs. Most of the residents are helpless. They must be fed, dressed, washed, taken to the toilet, lifted from bed to wheelchair and wheelchair to bed. Some of the girls must have their arms restrained because they are self mutilators. It's not a very pleasant job, working among these misshapen, ward-bound children. Last year the turnover in attendants at the Austin school was 50 percent. The work might be more meaningful if attendants had some training, but there's rarely time for that.' Martha can put in a full day just keeping the ward clean. For her labors she is paid $397 a month. The top advancement she can hope for is supervisor of attendents. Martha's first task that August morning was to wake, dress and feed 21 girls. She roused 14-year-old Carole Ann Perry first, placing her in a wheelchair next to her bed. Carole Ann kept slipping out of the chair, so Martha tied the retaining strings of the girl's gown to the chair to hold her in place. Then she started waking the other girls. About 10 or 15 minutes later, Martha noticed that Carole Ann had slipped again. She thought the girl was asleep, so she propped her up in the wheelchair once more and pushed her down the hall to the bathroom and sat her on a toilet A few minutes later, Martha discovered that Carole Ann had fallen off the toilet. Her face was strangely discolored. Martha called the ward attendant upstairs for help, but it was too late. Cdrole Ann Perry had strangled to death on the strings of her own nightgown. ACCORDING TO The Houston Post, there have been 38 deaths at the three state mental health and mental retardation facilities in Austin since January of 1972. That's not counting an Austin teenager who drowned last month at a summer camp in Leander, 30 miles from Austin. Of the 38 deaths, three occurred at the Austin State Hospital, 14 at the Austin State School and 21 at the Travis State School. Nine of the people who died were listed as severely physically disabled as well as mentally handicapped. In these cases there were multiple causes of death. The most devastating aspect of a tour of the Austin State School is a visit to the infirmary, which houses 34 of the severely disabled, most of them victims of hydrocephalus. An abnormal amount of fluid collects in the cranium, causing the head to swell and destroying the brain. Most of the children must be tube fed. They stare blankly through the bars of their cribs in an unwitting wait for death. A few children, legs twisted into scissor shapes, are placed on mats as a break from the physical monotony of the hospital beds. A lucky few are capable of rolling over and sitting up. Two of the 38 deaths were attributed to bowel impactions, constipation, that is. Ten residents choked to death on their own vomit, according to the death records. Two others died after choking on "foreign bodies" and going into convulsions. During recent hearings on child care facilities in Texas, State Rep. Lane Denton pointed out that one type of tranquilizer used at the state schools suppresses the coughing mechanism and might possibly be related to the deaths attributed to choking or aspiration. Free the Slow, Inc., an organization of former MHMR employees and other persons interested in working with the mentally retarded, also has questioned the use of drugs at state facilities. Representatives of Free The Slow say the mentally retarded are being used as "human guinea pigs," often without their consent or the consent of their guardians.